A court in Turkey has put 17 journalists under arrest over links to US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 failed coup attempt.
A court in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, on Saturday remanded in custody the journalists on charges of being members of a “terror group.”
On Friday, 21 detained journalists appeared before a judge in hearings which lasted until midnight. Four were then freed but 17 were placed under pre-trial arrest.
Those held include veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak as well as former correspondent for the pro-Gulen Zaman daily, Hanim Busra Erdal.
Among the four freed is prominent commentator Bulent Mumay.
“I could never have imagined being accused of such a thing. It was a madness. It's not right to arrest journalists -- this country should not make the same mistakes again,” he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu defended the detention of reporters, saying it was necessary to distinguish between coup plotters and those “who are engaged in real journalism.”
Ankara considers Gulen's movement a terror group, saying it was behind the July 15 coup. He fiercely denies the allegation.
Turkey has detained more than 18,000 people over suspected involvement in the attempted coup, with the relentless crackdown sparking warnings from the European Union that Ankara's EU membership bid may be in danger.
Turkey must respect 'rule of law'
On Friday, EU Enlargement and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned Turkey that the bloc would freeze the country's accession talks if its post-coup crackdown violates the rule of law.
“While I am of the opinion that since the coup attempt the measures taken have been disproportionate, I need (to see) black-and-white facts about how these people are treated,” he said.
“And if there is even the slightest doubt that the (treatment) is improper, then the consequences will be inevitable.”
In a speech at his presidential palace late Friday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily denounced the criticism and accused the West of deserting Turkey in its hour of need.
“Some people give us advice. They say they are worried. Mind your own business! Look at your own deeds,” Erdogan said, adding, “Not a single person has come to give condolences either from the European Union ... or from the West.”
“Those countries or leaders who are not worried about Turkey's democracy, the lives of our people, its future -- while being so worried about the fate of the putschists -- cannot be our friends,” he growled.
Speaking at the same event, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey had now succeeded in removing all elements linked to Gulen from the military.
On Thursday, Turkey announced a military reshuffle, including the discharge of 1,700 military servicemen. About 40 percent of generals and admirals have been discharged since the coup.
More than 66,000 public sector workers have been also dismissed from their posts. Moreover, 50,000 passports have been also cancelled while the labor ministry is investigating 1,300 of its personnel.